Microphones of all types
Based on the fact that any microphone has the ability to capture the quality (higher or lower) of any sound source (in terms of quality of construction of the instrument, skill of the interpreter, acoustics of the venue, …), we can affirm that any microphone it is valid to capture any sound source. Now, yes it is true, that for certain applications we observe that certain characteristics of some types of microphone can help us highlight the best features of a sound, avoid certain problems during its use, take advantage of its peculiarities … If you are interested In getting the most out of your recordings and obtaining a professional sound quality, you cannot miss the new music production courses that we have available in ourMusical Production School .
Types of microphone according to their transducer (type of construction)
There are several devices capable of transforming acoustic energy into electrical energy (transducers). We are going to analyze 3 different types, the most commonly used.
First of all let’s talk about dynamic microphones . These microphones pick up the sound through the pressure variations that the acoustic waves exert on the diaphragm, and that this in turn transmits to the cable by varying the magnetic field that will be created by winding said cable on a magnet.
In principle, this type of construction makes the microphone not be overly sensitive , which can be beneficial to especially strong sound sources as elements of percussion, guitar amplifiers, …, has a frequency response acceptable , which makes it a very versatile microphone, and we can use it even in voices, its simple construction makes them economically affordable and quite resistant, ideal for direct or outdoor applications.
Without intending to set a standard, for guidance we could say that:
Strengths of the Dynamic Microphone:
It supports high levels of sound pressure , ideal for amplifiers, percussion elements, …
Versatility , because it allows us to capture with more than acceptable quality, too, sounds such as voices, instruments without amplification …
They are microphones quite resistant to sudden movements, shocks, humidity, which makes them ideal for live use.
For certain instruments with a very delicate sound and a lot of detail, it may not work as well as another type of microphone.
By not requiring phantom power, in some cases we may find that we do not have enough gain in our preamplifier (if it is not of quality) to give an adequate level of input gain.
Now let’s talk about condenser microphones , along with dynamic, the most widely used microphone types. With a somewhat more complex and delicate construction than dynamic microphones, in this case, the microphone membrane acts as one of the plates that make up a condenser. By moving with the pressure variations generated by the sound, a charge variation is created that results in a voltage variation, resulting in the microphone signal.
Condenser microphones are characterized by having the widest frequency response and increased sensitivity to capture the finer details of sounds. We can find them with different membrane sizes, which also means that within condenser microphones we can differentiate between microphones with large or small membrane. Widely used in recording studios, somewhat less in outdoor or direct uses, due to their greater fragility. To use the condenser microphones we must provide them with a current of + 48v ( phantom power ).
Strengths of the Condenser Microphone:
Uptake of a very wide frequency range
High sensitivity (greater detail)
In quite a few cases, the possibility of changing the polar pattern of uptake
Greater fragility and sensitivity to shocks, sudden movements, humidity, …
The complexity of its construction means that we have to be careful when recording very powerful sound sources and at a small distance.
Finally we are going to talk about ribbon microphones. These microphones pick up the sound through a tape embraced by two ends that is suspended within a magnetic field. The movement produced by the acoustic waves in the tape ends up being translated into the electrical signal of the microphone.
This type of microphone is characterized by capturing sound in a very natural way . Unlike some condenser microphones (the cheapest usually), ribbon microphones have the ability to pick up high frequencies in a smooth way . There are also those who define its sound as a vintage sound, very round and somewhat dark. Extremely delicate , even more than condenser, it is recommended for some applications to use an antipop, to avoid possible air blows that damage the tape. The vast majority, due to its construction mode, present a figure 8 polar pattern (below we will define the different patterns that we can find).
Weaknesses of the Ribbon Microphone:
Its delicate construction makes it a type of microphone that requires great care when handling it and exposing it to overly powerful sound sources (percussion, amplifiers …, always depending on the distance from the source)
There is another classification of microphones that we can perform, taking into account this time the polar pattern or directionality, that is, the ability of the microphone to capture sound from certain directions . How is this possible? We’ll see.
Microphone types according to their directionality
This will be another feature that determines what uses one microphone or another will work best for. The possibility of choosing a microphone, or in some cases configuring it, a certain polar pattern, opens the door to take advantage of certain circumstances. We are going to talk about 3 different patterns (which are the ones that are most often found, and the others are usually patterns halfway between any of these 3).
First of all we can talk about the cardioid polar pattern. This pattern is characterized by picking up practically only the sound that comes from the space directly in front of the microphone membrane , some from the sides and practically nothing from the rear. This pattern can be very useful to isolate a certain sound , in an alleged situation where there are several sound sources. There are variations of this polar pattern, such as the hypercardioid, where it picks up even less from the sides to focus almost exclusively on what sounds in the front.
Below we can describe the characteristics of the figure 8 polar pattern. Doing justice to the graphic representation of the number that makes up its name, the microphones equipped with this polar pattern have the ability to pick up sounds located both on the front and on the back. rear , and DO NOT pick up the ones on the sides . This ability makes them very useful, for example, for interviews, to capture the direct sound and reverb of a space, …
Finally, we would find the omnidirectional microphones, which as you can imagine capture everything that happens around them, the 360º . Precisely that can become both its greatest virtue, since well used they can help you capture a great environment , for example, as well as their greatest defect, since misused they can ruin a shot by unwanted noise straying into the signal. source.
Now, having said all this (which I really think is important), to conclude this topic I would say: If you have time, forget about “the rules” and try, since each microphone (even belonging to the same type of microphone) It has a particular sound , and we can always discover a timbre that we like or interesting for certain applications. If you do not have time for whatever reason during a recording to test, and you do not want to play it, I would try to remember the characteristics of each type of microphone, as well as take into account what we mentioned in the entry Audio recording . 5 aspects to improve our shots to try to ensure an acceptable shot from any source in any situation.